Jim Siergey: At The DMV

February 22nd, 2018

Having to make copies of my driver’s license as part of some paperwork regarding a transaction led me to discover that it had been expired for four months. Once again, my ability to stay one step ahead of the law paid off.

Also, ignorance is bliss and since I now knew it was expired, I was more likely to get pulled over so I arranged for my wife to take me to the DMV, one of the last places to which anyone wishes to go.

Despite the fact that they have modernized themselves, I still have nightmarish memories of standing in lines that extended out of the building, down the stairs and onto the sidewalk only, once in and seen, to be directed to another line somewhere else in the cavernous building.

However, I was soon to learn one of the benefits to being the age that I have reached.

Upon entering, I got in one of those lines designed to resemble the ones that behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner designed for rats that are now universally prevalent. But, after only a few minutes, someone called out “Are there any senior citizens in line? If so, come line up here.”

“Hey!” I said to myself, “That’s me!”

So, I scurried out of line, only to be beaten to the front by another gent who didn’t look like a senior citizen to me but I think the cut-off age is 55, so he probably was legit. Jeeze Mareeze, have I reached the age where even 55 year olds look young? To quote the great Desi Arnaz, “Ay Yi Yi.”

waitinginlineatdmvThe wait…
When my turn came up, the DMV worker looked at my license and at me, then asked if I wanted to sit in that area over by there or go stand in line. I told him I could handle the line. He replied, “You look healthy enough. Me, I’m 70, I’d never go stand in that line.”

Off I went to another circuitous line that led to getting one’s picture taken. As I stood there, another city worker, a largish bespectacled woman with red hair wearing a bright flowered blouse, appeared next to me on the other side of the velvet rope with the same feller that was in front of me earlier.

She barked to the row of picture-takers (I don’t think they’re entitled to the sobriquet of ‘photographers’, are they?), saying, “I have a senior here!”

To this, I remarked to her, “Is there a special line for seniors?”

She looked me over and replied, “Yes. Are you a senior?”

I told her that I was and she let me come over, just like a gentle game of Red Rover. I told her that I was directed to get in the other line. She looked me over once again and said “They probably did that because you look in pretty good shape for a senior.”

Two compliments, not only in one day but within one hour!

I got my picture snapped and had to sit somewhere else to wait for my number, D342, to be called. It soon was and I hustled over to Window 15 where a nicely dressed Filipino lady waited for me.

I answered in the positive to her question about whether I still resided at the same address and then she said something about the Taj Mahal. This threw me for a bit of a loop and I tried to think whether there was a restaurant by that name in my neighborhood.

After a moment I realized that she said “So, you didn’t move to the Taj Mahal?” Humor! It was a humorous comment and it came from an employee at the DMV!

I laughed and said, “No, I haven’t moved to the Taj Mahal yet. Maybe in a couple of years.”

“I’ll move in after you move out.”

“Oh, right,”, I countered,” after I renovate the place.”

“That’s the best time.”, she demurely replied.

Boy, not only go-to-the-head-of-the-line service, compliments handed out like candy on Hallowe’en but a humorous tete-a-tete to boot. All this place needed was a piano bar.

In all, I spent just slightly under an hour at the DMV and left with my temporary license in hand. I almost can’t wait to return.


Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Silence Is Golden




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Randolph Street: America’s Pastime

February 14th, 2018


Baseball–Blue Grass, Iowa


These pictures were made from 1975 to 1982. Highway 61 ran from New Orleans to Thunder Bay–along the Mississippi up to St. Paul then along Lake Superior to Thunday Bay, Ontario, where it ended.



Man & Dog–Vicksburg, Mississippi



Trailer Boy–near Burlington, Iowa



Porch–Blytheville, Arkansas



Paper Hat–New Orleans, Louisiana



Demolition–Thunder Bay, Ontario


All photos © Jon Randolph


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Jim Siergey: Silence Is Golden

February 13th, 2018

Very rarely during the course of my life have I volunteered verbal interaction with people. If someone spoke to me first, I would respond but I pretty much avoided initiating any tete-a-tetes, chin wags or chewing of fat.

But, as I approach the autumn of my years, I find myself (gasp) interacting more and more, albeit in a rather clumsy manner.

My interaction technique can best be described as ‘blurtive’.  To strangers upon whom I come across as I tread upon this mortal coil I emit short quick comments that come without warning thus usually catching the recipient off guard.

Adding to the confusion is that most of what I say, apparently, is a tad esoteric. Some people have even gone so far as to suggest that I travel with an annotator (!) Harrumph. I just assume that everyone I speak to is as intelligent, well-read and worldly as I am, just as they should expect the same from me. Life is a referential thing, is it not?

Be that as it may, with the January weather being unseasonably pleasant, I embarked upon an afternoon constitutional.

Across the avenue I saw a guy walking three dogs. He turned to cross the street in the opposite direction that I was crossing so as we neared I blurted out to him.

“Three on a leash, eh? Is that bad luck?”

siergeyaesop&sonWise as Aesop…


He turned, chuckled nervously and said something indistinguishable in response. As I was turning back I espied from the corner of my eye one of the dogs, a small, unleashed one, under my feet right where I was going to step.

The inconvenience of its positioning forced me to extend my gait mid-stride so that I wouldn’t tromp upon it or trip over it. This life-saving maneuver sent the ungrateful little mongrel into a barking fit.

It was somewhere beneath me so I couldn’t tell if it was deciding to bite as well. Since my extended stride had left me in a near spread-eagled pose, this uncertainty caused me some concern.

Fortunately, its bark, which was a pretty irritating high-pitched one, was worse than its bite. The walker finally quieted it down with some chastisement and the little yapper returned to him, leaving me in peace rather than pieces.

The Aesopian moral that I garnered from that encounter was this: One should count one’s dogs before klatsching.

Or, just shut the hell up.


Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was The Taxco Casbah

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Randolph Street: Gorriti

February 7th, 2018


Balcony–Buenos Aires, Argentina






Tire Shop



Boedo Billards



Gorriti Street



All photos © Jon Randolph 2014





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Jim Siergey: The Taxco Casbah

February 7th, 2018

Some years back, my wife and I were in Taxco (rhymes with Bosco). It’s a town in the state of Guerrero, southwest of Mexico City. It is known for its silver and its Spanish Colonial architecture.

We had driven there from Acapulco with a carload of people, we being the only gringos so all was new to us. The drive took several hours and once we arrived to the mountainous town, the other passengers wanted to eat. We felt like stretching our legs after the long drive so, as they dined, we went out on our own to explore.

The city of Taxco is built on rugged terrain and has steep, meandering streets. One must be in pretty good condition to roam these ancient inclines that make San Francisco’s sloping streets look like cute little ant hills.

They are mostly paved with dark stones but here and there are remarkable mosaics that are hundreds of years old. There are no sidewalks on the narrow streets so one has to also be mindful of traffic of the four-wheeled kind.

The Santa Prisca church, a tall Baroque edifice, is located in the main zócalo and towers above all other construction.

Needless to say, we were entranced and just kept roaming and roaming through the crowded, hustling and bustling maze-like streets. It was a lovely place ingrained with a mystical essence.

My wife and I have a tendency, no matter where we are, to leave the beaten path and then have to figure out how to return to it so, starry-eyed in our wandering, we inadvertently moseyed off the main thoroughfare and found ourselves on a rather isolated and unbeaten path.


Lovely Taxco…


The crowds of people, vehicles and tourists were now gone. We were confronted with a series of steps that led upwards. Curiously and tenuously, we climbed them and soon found ourselves in an M.C. Escher-designed labyrinth. Whichever route we took took us to more routes.

We came to a section that was filled with vendors of all kinds who sat on the sides of the steps displaying their wares which were of the utilitarian kind, not souvenirs. Colorful curtains separated each place of business and billowed flirtingly in the breeze.

Besides the sounds of music and chatter, the air was filled with a strange and intoxicating smell as the aromas of food, utensils, toys, herbs, and merchandise of all kinds blended together in the mountain air. The thin mountain air.

Being we were the only non-Taxcoans wandering about in a stretch which, obviously, was the shopping area for the locals, we received the occasional curious look as we swept on by.

The more stairs we climbed or descended and the more twists and turns we made only embroiled us further into this alcove of the city. We felt like we were in the Casbah but neither of us were Pepe Le Moko.

There’s a 1938 movie called “Algiers” starring Charles Boyer and Hedy Lamarr. It is set in the Algerian Casbah, which is a labyrinthine citadel where only the inhabitants know their way around. Boyer plays Pepe Le Moko, a jewel thief who uses the Casbah as his fortress from the police but is also his personal prison for if he sets foot out of it, he will be arrested.

Then he meets outsider Hedy Lamarr and…well, go watch the durn thing. It’s good. By the way, if the thespianism of Charles Boyer from that flick didn’t inspire the creation of Pepe Le Pew, I’ll eat my skunk hat.

So, that’s how we felt amid the vendors, the billowing curtains and the stairs and corners that didn’t take us anywhere except to more stairs and corners— like we were in The Casbah.

And me without a fez.

It took a mutual brainstorm to extricate us from the circuitous citadel in which we found ourselves. From anywhere in Taxco, including where we were, one can see the towering steeple of the afore-mentioned Santa Prisca church. If we kept it in view, using it as a landmark, a beacon, we would eventually find our way back to the town square.

So we did and we did.

It was an interesting little excursion but the thing about ‘off the beaten path’ traipsing is that it stirs up one’s appetite. We were now ready to eat.

So we did that too.

BTW, if you ever get a chance to visit Taxco, do so. It’s a gem.

Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was TK…


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Jim Siergey: Stoolie

February 1st, 2018

As I recently posted, back in 1971 I lived in an apartment on Southport Avenue, just north of Irving Park Road.

1971 may as well have been 1951 in many parts of Chicago. Buildings, businesses and neighborhoods had not changed much. It was still a gray and grimy city. Some neighborhoods remain that way to this day but most of the city has been spruced up, gentrified with a tidy little bow on top.

Take Southport Avenue for instance.

In 1971 packs of wild dogs roamed the street where I lived. My apartment was filled with mice and roaches. Today, dogs on that street are perfumed and leashed and the mice and roaches all speak French and clean up after themselves.

On the corner of Southport and Irving in 1971 was a longtime neighborhood bar called Armand’s Tap. I recounted an incident that occurred in that drab yet colorful establishment in a previous Third City post. Now I shall regale you with another.

I’ve never been much of a bar person but when friends came to visit, they’d want to go down to Armand’s, so we would. We were all of the hippie persuasion, the long hair being a dead giveaway. Long hair meant something back then. It identified you as an enemy of the status quo, a draft dodger, a drug-taker, a Nixon-hater.

Nowadays, long hair don’t mean shee-it.

chicagocops1968One of Chicago’s finest…


The three of us entered Armand’s and took seats at the bar. We ordered schooners of Bohemia Vat 69 and sipped away. The fella next to me was an older guy. Heck, I was 21, everyone was an older guy. This guy was probably in his 40s or 50s, your typical working man in a neighborhood bar. He began talking to me.

It wasn’t really a conversation. He peppered me with questions. Peppered is not quite the right verb to use as he had been drinking for quite a while and his speech was slow and a bit slurry but he did ask a lot of questions about my lifestyle. I almost felt as if he was trying to come to some understanding about the differences in our generations.

After a while, he got up, went across the room to use the pay phone and then returned to his stool next to me.

Within minutes, the dimness of the bar’s interior was lit up with strobing rays of flashing blue lights from atop the platoon of squad cars that came screeching to a halt outside Armand’s Tap. Several of Chicago’s Finest entered with guns raised.

The old guy next to me grunted in faux surprise, “Huh? Hey, what’s goin’ on?”

One of the cops shouted “We received a report that someone in here has a gun. Keep your hands where we can see them!”

They then proceeded to frisk everyone at and in the bar. I fondly recall that I was wearing an old Navy pea coat that had holes in the pockets so when I was frisked I ended up getting an unintentionally intimate bear hug from the very efficient officer behind me.

No gun was found and the police resentfully vacated the premises and I don’t blame them for feeling pissed about the false alarm.

After the dust was settled, my bar “partner” innocently asked me, “What was that all about?”

I answered him with a scornful glare as I placed my empty glass upon its coaster and my cohorts and I went back out into the night, with our eyes open for dogs.


Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was 1971


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Randolph Street: Bikers And So On…

January 24th, 2018

1DSCF8774Rail–Mar Del Plata, Argentina


3aDSCF8986Bicycle–Buenos Aires


2aDSCF9659Wait–McCormick Place


Bicycle–Buenos Aires


4DSCF9707Auto Show–Chicago


5DSCF6026Jewel Tea–Chicago


All photos © Jon Randolph


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